So the other day I wrote a piece about songs that had formed an important part in my life (see here). That got me thinking about other things that have been similarly influential in my upbringing. There’s no shortage of things that I could, and probably over time will, write about; but for now I wanted to mention a poem that’s really important to me. It’s one of two, and I’ll post the other another time.
This isn’t a poem that I studied in school, so I was never forced to read it. Rather, it’s something that I stumbled across (I think) as the foreword to a book. It’s very, very British: all stiff upper lip and all that but that’s part and parcel of when it was written. Back then when half the world was coloured pink and spoke English this kind of attitude was very much how people were expected to grow up.
Poems can, and do, mean different things to different people. To me, ‘If’ is all about being able to believe in yourself no matter what others may say or think of you and always trying to do the right thing, even though more often than not you will fail along the way.
I remember being in the infant classes at Primary school – I can’t have been more than six or seven years old – and the headmaster at the time, a wonderful pipe-smoking gentleman by the name of Mr Leigh, telling us that “you only get out of life as much as you put into it.” It may not have meant much to me at that age, but it does now. To me ‘If’ is the perfect embodiment of that sentiment.